8 months jail for woman tricked into funds transfer

An administrative officer who acted as a money mule for a man she met online was jailed for eight months yesterday.

Aslinda Othman, 43, who faced seven charges, admitted to receiving more than $94,000 in her HSBC account on Sept 11 last year, while having reason to believe the money was stolen.

Two days later, she transferred $50,000 of this to the Malaysian bank account of one Keoagile Letshabo. Another two sums totalling $84,881 were transferred to another person's account, also in Malaysia. A district court heard that she had done it to help someone called Walter Samuel, whom she met on Tagged, a social website.

Her lawyer, Mr Ferlin Jayatissa, said in mitigation that his client originally loaned Samuel $20,000, supposedly to pay for an operation for his critically ill son, but was only repaid $1,000 of this. District Judge Low Wee Ping said she had been tricked.

On Feb 1 last year, she opened the bank account and began helping Samuel to receive and transfer funds on at least two occasions. She also received and transferred funds for Samuel using her account with United Overseas Bank.

Judge Low agreed with the lawyer that Aslinda's culpability was on a "lower level".

He said: "I understand that these offences have been somewhat prevalent, and the authorities have been trying their best to deter Singaporeans from participating in these sophisticated offences.

"Therefore, this court needs to impose a deterrent sentence not only on yourself, but a general deterrent sentence to discourage others from committing this offence.''

Five other charges were taken into consideration during her sentencing. The total amount of loss was about $150,000. She could have been jailed for up to five years and/or fined for dishonestly receiving stolen property.

For transferring property which directly represents a person's benefits from criminal conduct, the maximum penalty is a $500,000 fine and seven years' jail.

This article was first published on December 23, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.